Hosts India led by MS Dhoni will be meeting Sri Lanka in the Finals of the ICC World Cup 2011 at Mumbai! This was after a terrific victory by 29 runs against arch-rivals Pakistan in a high voltage Semi Final clash yesterday at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali. This superb win for Team India was possible with all the bowlers doing their job taking two wickets each to successfuly defend a not-so-big total of 260. With this, India have kept their 100% winning record against Pakistan in all the World Cup matches till date! They now clash with Sri Lanka in the Grand Finals at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on April 2nd. Its the third World Cup final for both the teams and interestingly both India and Sri Lanka have 1 out 3 WC Finals so far.
Toss and Teams
MS Dhoni called correctly at the toss and India decided to have runs on the board in this huge pressure match which was being witnessed by a packed house at the PCA Stadium which included some of the top bureaucrats from both countries – Prime Minister of India – Dr.Manmohan Singh, his counterpart – the Pakistani Prime Minister Ali Gilani, the President of the ruling party in India – Sonia Gandhi and many others. The Pakistani side made no changes to the line-up which defeated West Indies in the Quarter Finals at Mirpur. MS Dhoni made a brave decision to play Ashish Nehra in the place of the impressive R Ashwin just to have more bowling options up his sleeve.
India Batting – Wahab Riaz spoils India’s chances of getting a huge total
Virender Sehwag like always started off in an intimidating fashion which resulted in Pakistan getting demoralized straightaway. However, Sehwag couldn’t last long and as he got lbw to a skidding delivery from one change Wahab Riaz. Sehwag was in the air expecting the ball to bounce a lot higher in an attempted flick shot but it stayed low to hit the pad plumb infront. A review was taken by Sehwag (38 from 25 balls with 9 fours) but only to be wasted and India got to 48 for 1 in 5.5 overs. Sehwag was severe on Pakistan’s strike bowler Umar Gul who went for five fours in the 3rd over of the match! The momentum was maintained by Tendulkar in the company of Gambhir after Sehwag’s exit by some good shots and in the 11th over came a massive moment when Umpire Ian Gould gave the little master lbw off a flattish off break from Saeed Ajmal. Tendulkar playing half cock in a flick shot had asked for a review and to everybody’s surprise though it looked plumb, Hawk Eye revealed that the ball was turning sharply to miss the leg stump! The decision was reversed as not out dramatically to let Tendulkar survive!
Pakistan’s next breakthrough came in the 19th over when Gautam Gambhir (27 from 32 balls with 2 fours) was lured out of the crease by Mohammad Hafeez who got the ball to grip the surface and turn away sharply to beat the left hander and have him stumped by a mile. It was a solid 68-run stand with Tendulkar by Gambhir for the 2nd wicket. Just when things looked quite easy for India, came Wahab Riaz into a new spell and he changed the complexion of the match totally by taking two wickets in two consecutive balls to have India at 141 for 4 in the 26th over! First was Virat Kohli (9 from 21 balls) who opened the face of the blade on the backfoot but only to steer a quick short ball from Wahab Riaz straight into the hands of Umar Akmal at point. The very next ball Yuvraj Singh was shaping up to play a flick shot to what appeared to be a swinging full toss from Wahab Riaz but the ball suddenly dipped down into a yorker to clean up the in-form left hander’s woodwork to send him out of the park with a first ball duck!
India got rattled by Wahab Riaz’s reverse swing but somehow could bail out of that with Tendulkar getting a useful partnership going with Skipper MS Dhoni. In the 37th over, Sachin Tendulkar departed back to the pavilion leaving India at 187 for 5 when he uppishly drove Saeed Ajmal into the safe hands of Afridi at covers. Tendulkar who was lucky to get to a crucial 85 (from 115 balls with 11 fours) as he was dropped as many as four times by the Pakistanis and also was lucky to escape an lbw decision using the URDS. First it was in the 13th over that Misbah-ul-Haq dropped Sachin when he was on 27 and attempting a pull off Afridi. The second drop was in the 20th over when Younis Khan dropped an uppish cover drive from Sachin who was on 45 then and the bowler to suffer was again Afridi. In the 30th over, Tendulkar on 70 edged Afridi but the ball had hit the pad of Kamran Akmal, the keeper who reacted pretty late to that. The fourth drop catch came in the 35th over when Umar Akmal at widish mid wicket mistimed his jump to let Tendulkar get away from a slog off Hafeez when he was on 82. Tendulkar wasn’t at his best all through the innings but managed to get a precious score of 85 to lay the foundation for India.
Skipper MS Dhoni (25 from 42 balls with 2 fours) who was under pressure to deliver with the bat failed yet again when he went back to a Wahab Riaz delivery for a pull shot but the ball had skidded through slightly low to have him lbw. A review was seeked by the Indian Captain but the original decision was a right one to reduce India to 205 for 6 in the 42nd over. Next man Harbhajan Singh contributed 12 (from 15 balls with 2 fours) to help India get near to the 250-mark before he was stumped off a Saeed Ajmal doosra. Zaheer Khan replaced him and struggled to put bat to ball often to score a 10-ball 9 before getting caught behind in a slog off Wahab Riaz which gave the left arm quick a maiden five-wicket haul. India finished its innings at a competitive 260 for 9 thanks to a responsible knock from Suresh Raina who remained unbeaten with 36 (from 39 balls with 3 fours). Wahab Riaz was sensational for Pak taking 5 for 46 in 10 overs. Saeed Ajmal dominated the batsmen with figures of 10-0-44-2 while Shahid Afridi had no luck but conceded only 45 in his 10 overs. The problem for Pak was that Umar Gul leaked as many as 69 in his 8 overs!
Pakistan Batting – Bowlers deliver a superb win for India
Both Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez got their side to a solid start. India’s first opening came in the 9th over when Kamran Akmal’s flashy drive off Zaheer was caught by Yuvraj at point. Kamran Akmal scored 19 from 21 balls in an opening stand of 44. The next wicket was thrown away by Pakistan when a well set Mohammad Hafeez (43 from 59 balls with 7 fours) attempted a ridiculous predetermined paddle sweep off a slower leg cutter from Munaf Patel but only to edge it to the keeper. Pak was 70 for 2 when young Asad Shafiq was joined by the veteran Younis Khan. Yuvraj Singh who got out for a first ball duck got his opportunity with the ball which he grabbed with both the hands to remove Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan in the space of two overs to reduce Pak to 106 for 4 in the 26th over. Asad Shafiq (30 from 39 balls with 2 fours) was foxed by a well disguised armer to which he went back for a cut shot but only to be bowled while Younis after a slow 13 from 32 balls drove a widish flighted delivery into the hands of extra covers.
Young star in the making – Umar Akmal took the charge to try and bring his side back in the game which he did so by taking Yuvraj Singh for a couple of sixes and a boundary. A bowling change from Dhoni bringing back Harbhajan Singh just after drinks worked wonders with the off spinner unleashing an arm ball from round the sticks to which Umar Akmal (29 from 24 balls with a four and 2 sixes) went back for a flick shot expecting the ball to turn in but the ball angled away and straightened to beat the bat and hit the off stump. Now Pak were at 142 for 5 in the 34th over. India in the next 7 overs or so got rid of the potentially dangerous Abdul Razzaq and Skipper Shahid Afridi to give the knock out punches. Razzaq (3 from 12 balls) was clean bowled around off by a slower leg cutter from Munaf to which he had no clue while playing inside the line on the backfoot. Afridi (19 from 17 balls with a four) was caught at covers when he miscued his heave off an uncomfotrable full toss from Harbhajan Singh which was angling away.
The match was as good as over with Pakistan at 184 for 7 in the 42nd over. Misbah-ul-Haq never threatened at his end with any big shots and India had control of the match. Ashish Nehra who was very economocial returned back to take the wickets of Wahab Riaz (slicing his big hit to covers) and Umar Gul (lbw to a swinging low full toss). Misbah-ul-Haq who only went for the big shots in the last three overs was the last to perish when he miscued Zaheer into the hands of long on as Pakistan got bowled out for 231 in 49.5 overs. It was a selfish knock of 56 from 75 balls (with 5 fours and a six) by Misbah.
All the Indian bowlers backed up by some excellent ground fielding took two wickets each to contribute equally in the 29-run victory. The best batsman of the match – Sachin Tendulkar got the Man of the Match award.